Posted by: Tara Aarness | January 3, 2010

Illegal Cock Fighting

There are times when it’s hard to help yourself, let alone others. Saturday was one of those days where everything seemed to go wrong, all at once. Needless to say, the thought of volunteering didn’t inspire me. My husband’s an Animal Control Officer (ACO) and we only have his son every other weekend; as luck would have it, he works Saturday’s. I promised him I’d bring his down so he could work alongside his dad and learn some responsibility. Donning our bright blue volunteer shirts, we made our way down to the Kent animal shelter.

There are various opportunities to be had while volunteering at the animal shelter. Among them are walking dogs; cuddling/playing with cats and kittens; assisting potential adopters with selecting the right dog or cat for their lifestyle; helping officers feed, water and medicate animals; cleaning pet dishes, litter pans; and folding towels and blankets for cat and dog kennels. Dish and laundry duty certainly isn’t exciting, but, truthfully, it is one of the most appreciated jobs. Towels and blankets are given to the hundreds of scared animals, offering a bit of comfort in a completely foreign world. Each dish and litter pan is scrubbed and sanitized to help reduce the risk of infection. Without the volunteers, each officer would easily work an 18 hour day and still wouldn’t be able to accomplish their tasks. Standing at the sink in the feed room, they frequently pass by, offering their gratitude many times a day. I guess that’s why I don’t mind helping out, regardless of my day. The thanks I receive is plentiful and as I walk past all the furry faces, I can see it in their eyes, too.

ACO’s are responsible for obtaining the owner surrendered animal or stray, evaluating it to see if it needs medical attention or has been abused or neglected. Then, once in a kennel, maintaining the cleanliness of that kennel, as well as monitoring its behavior (making sure it isn’t kenneled with an aggressive dog, maintaining its health). In addition to caring for up to 13,000 animals a year, they routinely assist people looking for their lost cat or dog, wash dishes, fold laundry, unload supplies, assist the medical staff, maintain livestock, and work on cruelty cases. This is a very simplified list of duties they perform daily. It comes as no surprise then as to why they put in so much overtime, sacrificing time with their husbands or wives, children and families.

Driving through the back gates, we noticed the livestock pen was being prepared. For what, we weren’t sure, but just as curiosity killed the cat, we aimed to find out. We never made it to the feed room, though, as two officers stopped us and asked for our help. That’s the thing with volunteering here; you never know where you may be needed the most. Five officers were en-route to the shelter bringing with them all 86 roosters from an illegal cock fighting ring and, with the shelter dangerously near capacity, they were hard pressed to find enough enclosures. My stepson and I helped the officers assemble cages while they assisted owners looking for their lost pet. Just as the last cage snapped together, the first wave of roosters arrived hungry, thirsty, and not at all happy. Feathers weren’t flying as they were checked in, being checked for signs of neglect and abuse, but the efficiency of each officer was impressive to watch, even if for just a moment.

Our task complete, we tackled the feed room, feelin’ pretty good about the past couple of hours. Dishes piled high and the shelves completely empty, we tackled our next task with enthusiasm. It wasn’t very long before officers came in grabbing supplies and thanking us for ‘all of your hard work.’ One after another, they each took a moment to explain how the simple act of washing some dishes and folding some towels not only helped the animals, but them personally. Just as the last load was finishing up, an officer that was involved with busting the cock fighting ring came in, handing each of us a cold can of Coke and thanked us yet again for our help. Boy, now we really felt good!

It was late, much later than when my husband was to get off of work, when we finally left for home. The dinner I had prepared earlier was no longer edible, so we stopped for a fast food dinner at 9:30 at night. But as we made our way under the night sky, tired, hungry, and a little bit sweaty, I couldn’t help but think about my day and how I may have not been able to help or solve my own problems, but I was able to make a difference to many, just by lending a hand.

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